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History is not being erased by weeding books

June 4th,2024 | Letters

The Editor,

I would like to respond to the person who is upset that the Wakefield Library did not accept their donation of books older than 10 years (“Expiry date on books?”, May 22 edition). 

First, a correction: If you peruse the shelves of the Wakefield Library, there are many older books still on the shelves. I doubt they’re trashing everything published before 2014! History is not being erased. There’s a difference between not accepting donations of older books and weeding a collection. All libraries do, however, have to weed (or deselect) at some point because space is not infinite. The criteria for weeding is usually low circulation, which brings me to my next point: The purpose of a public library is to serve the community (using the limited space and budget allocated to them), not to be a repository of knowledge. We have archives, museums and our national library for that. Public libraries, like all libraries, have collection policies based on the needs of their users (for instance, I work in a legislative library, and we have zero copies of “Thomas the Tank Engine”). 

I think an example might help. In 1986, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was a best-seller and nominated for several prizes. Let’s imagine that a library system with several branches has 25 copies of it in the late 1980s. Then, some years later during a weeding period, they observe that there’s never more than eight copies in circulation and decide to sell those surplus copies that haven’t either been lost or damaged. But then (surprise!), 30 years after publication the book becomes popular again, and they acquire a few copies of a new edition, along with ebooks and audiobooks. The surge in popularity lasts a couple of years then calms down. Now that there’s always at least one copy available at each branch at any given time, the library will regretfully not accept your dusty old copy of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. (Note: If anyone would like to borrow “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the Wakefield Library currently has two copies available.)

Brenda Labelle

Wakefield, Qc

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